A Sense of Place
Most of the world’s biggest airports have a quiet prayer room offering sanctuary before a journey. A traveler might be embarking on a new life or is simply going on a family holiday. A Burning in the Darkness begins in the prayer room of an airport where there is a tiny confessional box. In its anonymous darkness, a voice confesses a murder to Father Michael Kieh who becomes the main suspect in the murder investigation, but Michael doesn’t betray the identity of a young boy who witnessed the killer go into the confessional box nor break the Seal of Confession.
Michael grew up in Liberia in the midst of its brutal civil war. His childhood experiences shaped him and made him what he is. I wanted to explore the idea that he had the freedom to think differently from his environment. He had the ability to strike out against its dominant mood because he wanted the world to be good and not characterized by the destructive madness of war. And he had the strength of character to do it.
I studied English and Philosophy at University College Dublin, but I also trained and studied as a photographer. In the late eighties, I had the opportunity to go to the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat and used my time there to take portraits of some of its people. Some months ago, after I’d finished writing the novel, I was doing a clean-out of the attic and came across the photographs which had been hidden away for many years. I was struck by the way they explore the intertwined relationship between character and environment. The looming Soufrière Hills volcano is in the center of the island and it becomes the backdrop to many of the photographs. However, in July 1995, the volcano erupted and destroyed most of the main habitable areas, including the principal town, the airport, and docking facilities. Two-thirds of the population was forced to leave, mainly to the UK.
I could see that the photographs of Montserrat might say as much about me as they do about the people in the photographs. The quality of the relationship between the subject and the artist is crucial. The ultimate skill is not in mastering the camera or having a fancy ability with words; it is getting the subjects to reveal themselves – even if the subject is entirely your invention.
About the Author
AP was born and grew up in Ireland. He now lives in London and works in TV. He is a single father with three beautiful teenage children. He studied English and Philosophy and then post-graduate Film Studies. A Burning in the Darkness is his first novel.